Forecast: $500,000 to put a 2015 baby through Sydney’s private schools

Every chance: Daniella Di Santo with daughters Sienna, 5, and Verona, 3. Photo: Sahlan HayesBy the time a baby born in 2015 graduates from high school, many parents who choose private schools will have spent more than half a million dollars on their child’s education, a new study has found.
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The Australian Scholarships Group’s modelling released on Tuesday forecast the cost of private schooling in Sydney to be $541,275, making it the most expensive city in Australia to educate a child.

The breakdown is $175,109 for primary school and $359,043 for high school.

Even sending a child to a public school could cost up to $71,000 in Sydney, while parents would spend up to $234,887 for their child to attend systemic Catholic schools.

In addition to school fees, the index measures the cost of transport, uniforms, computers, school excursions and sporting trips.

The ASG chief executive, John Velegrinis, said parents need to plan financially for schooling from the moment a baby is born.

“Education is one of life’s major investments – in some instances it’s an even bigger investment than the family home,” he said “By putting a little bit away, parents are more likely to achieve the goals and aspirations they have for their children.”

By the time a child born this year reaches year 12 in 2032, the annual cost of a private education is expected to be as high as $68,624.

This is double the current tuition fees at Sydney’s most expensive schools, with a number now charging more than $30,000 per year.

Sydney Grammar, for example, charges $31,419 for annual senior tuition, while The King’s School asks for $31,581 and Redlands costs $30,750.

The average tuition for senior students at Catholic schools in the Sydney diocese is about $2200.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said the main cost drivers in independent schools were salaries, implementing the curriculum, technology and first class facilities.

“[In high-fee schools] parents would generally expect and receive more individual attention for their child, more curriculum and extra-curricular options, innovative teaching and learning practices, and good quality learning environments,” he said.

Mr Newcombe said some private schools serving lower socio-economic communities charge as little as $2000.

Those planning to send their child to public schools in Sydney can expect to pay $4400 at year 6 in 2026 and $7084 in year 12 at 2032.

Expenses for a primary school child attending school this year include extracurricular ($1763), clothing ($309), travel ($289) and computers ($471).

David Jordan, chairman of the Voluntary Parents Services Co-operative on Sydney’s north shore, said there are many hidden costs of public education.

“The bits and pieces like pens and paper and shoes and backpacks,” he said. “It’s often lots of little things rather than the big excursions and those things.”

Despite the soaring costs, Daniella Di Santo from Concord plans to send both her daughters to private schools from kindergarten to year 12. Her eldest Sienna, 5 will start school this year at Santa Sabina College in Strathfield where the annual fees rise from $11,400 in primary school to $18,825 in year 11 and 12.

“It’s always going to be a worry but we started to think about it a few years ago so we haven’t made a rash decision and we’ve planned it out over the next 15 years or so,” she said. “My husband and I decided that the best we can do for our children is to give them the best education available so they can have every opportunity available.”

With Hannah Paine

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Herald Breakfast – January 20 2015

Morning Shot: Instagrammer @grahamemarj took this shot of a rural vista on Monday. Weather: It looks wet. Showers and possible storms in Maitland (28 degrees) and Scone (31 degrees), with showers in Newcastle (24 degrees).
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Traffic: Metal debris near Sparke Street at Hexham is hindering drivrs on the Pacific Highway. Motorists are urged to exercise caution and reduce speed.

Trains: No delays or trackwork reported. Buses replace trains between Newcastle and Hamilton.

Beachwatch: Finally the beaches are back open but unfortunately we’re infor another gloomy day. It’ll be mainly cloudy with onshore winds and a few more showers. The wind will be east tonorth-east with the swell from the south-east around 1 to 1.5metres. Wave conditions will be sloppy to choppy with thenorthern corners the best options.

Morning Shot: Instagrammer @grahamemarj took this shot of a rural vista on Monday.

Tributes flow for Shannen Riggien after fatal fall:A SPLIT-SECOND decision has turned to heartbreak after the tragic death of a Kurri Kurri teenager.

Sharks out, storms in:THE great white shark may have disappeared but wild weather and big surf have rolled in to keep most of Newcastle’s beaches closed.

BHP buildings to go: THEY’VE been part of Newcastle’s industrial heritage for almost 100 years, but they will soon be bulldozed to allow for the decontamination of the old BHP steelworks site at Mayfield.

No chance of Newcastle losing Asian Cup semi: ASIAN Cup officials have guaranteed Newcastle will keep its semi-final, despite pressure to switch the potential blockbuster between Australia and Japan to ANZ Stadium.

Dog-fighting fears after bulldog stolen: A PAXTON family fears their bulldog was stolen for dog-fighting purposes at the weekend after hearing about a string of thefts of particular breeds, including a pigging dog, in the area.

FFA wants Tinkler to start acting on issues:FOOTBALL Federation Australia’s fears over the Newcastle Jets’ future under the ownership of Nathan Tinkler have been far from allayed despite assurances from the fallen tycoon over the weekend.

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Nathan Ross’ big chance to shine at Nines

SOLID START: Nathan Ross has bulked up in the off-season. Picture: Newcastle KnightsMata’utia brothers dominate Nines squad
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FULLBACK Nathan Ross is eight kilograms heavier, but has vowed to show Knights fans he has lost none of his trademark speed at the Auckland Nines.

Knights coach Rick Stone will name the man they call “White Lightning” on Tuesday in his squad for the pre-season tournament at Eden Park on January 31.

While some footballers judge the Nines as a mere pre-season practice run, Ross is taking it deadly serious.

It is the first-grade debut the former Kurri Kurri recruit has long craved after a successful NSW Cup campaign last year.

“It’s a pretty good opportunity to put myself in the shop window to show Stoney what I can deliver and a few of the other boys in the squad,” Ross said.

“I’m hoping to use my pace and get a few defenders one on one and back my strength and obviously offer some support to the rest of my team by finishing off with a few tries.”

During the off-season Ross has built up his frame from 84kg to 93.5kg in a bid to realise his NRL dream.

In the Newcastle Rugby League and in NSW Cup, Ross’ pace and try-scoring ability were his greatest assets.

The 26-year-old said that pace remained.

“I hit 9.4 metres per second the other day, second only to Jake Mamo who’s running 9.6,” he said.

“So it seems to have not affected my speed much.

“My agility is right up there and might nearly be the top in all the tests we’ve done.

“With our gym program, I’m carrying the weight well and learning a lot off Kurt Gidley about ball-playing.”

The Auckland Nines will also be the official beginning of a new era for the Knights.

Hopes are high with Stone back in charge after the disappointment of the Wayne Bennett era and the club now under the NRL’s stewardship.

Ross said that same enthusiasm was bubbling along at training.

“Everyone in the whole squad is hoping they can put in a good performance over there and start giving Newcastle something to be proud about with their football team again,” he said.

“It’s a new era with Rick Stone as coach and new players and there’s a really good vibe in the camp at the moment.

“We talk about it a lot at training, about putting pride back into the jersey and everyone is buying into it.”

Meanwhile, Knight back-rower Beau Scott was selected on Monday as captain of an NRL All-Stars containing clubmate Jeremy Smith to take on the Indigenous All Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast on February 13.

Newcastle centre Dane Gagai has again made the Indigenous line-up and will come off an extended bench.

Scott was selected in the starting side of the NRL team, while Smith was named in a seven-man interchange bench.

The captaincy comes after a memorable 2014 season for Scott, who was a star for NSW in their drought-breaking Origin success and played for Australia during the Four Nations.

The 30-year-old re-signed with Newcastle late last year until the end of 2017.


1. Sione Mata’utia

2. Jake Mamo

3. Dane Gagai

4. Chanel Mata’utia

5. Carlos Tuimavave

6. Jarrod Mullen (c)

7. Tyrone Roberts

8. Pat Mata’utia

9. Adam Clydsdale

10. Paterika Vaivai

11. Tyler Randell

12. Chris Houston

13. Robbie Rochow

14. Nathan Ross

15. Korbin Sims

16. Joseph Tapine

17. Jack Stockwell

18. Danny Levi

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Australian Open 2015: Gajdosova breaks first-round drought on 10th attempt

Jarmila Gajdosova has changed nationalities, suffered through mononucleosis, risen to 25th in the rankings and fallen back to 334th, lost her mother, married, divorced and gained a new fiance in the decade since she her first attempt to win a main draw match at the Australian Open. On Monday, after nine consecutive losses, she won. Not the tournament; a match. Ah, details, details.
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“It was my ten-year anniversary, so there was going to be celebration or one for the sadness. I’m glad it’s a celebration,” said the world No.62, who finally benefited from a kinder draw than in seed-dominated previous years to defeat Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru 6-3, 6-4, and will now play third seed Simona Halep.

“I was talking to my coach and I told him I actually did feel like I won Australian Open. It was just first round. It’s been such a long time coming. Not to be able to do it in your home grand slam was very devastating for me. I was very happy and relieved that I got this monkey off my back.

“I do love playing in Australia and I played well the last couple weeks. Won the mixed here, made semis in doubles, won Hobart, made quarters in Brisbane. So I play well here and I can play well here. I definitely enjoy it. I’m just very happy that one tournament in my whole career I couldn’t break I finally did. Whatever is going to happen from now on I’m just going to enjoy it and play the best I can.”

Gajdosova had never won the first set in any of her nine previous main draw matches, but never looked in danger of losing this one, quickly out to a 4-0 lead with some decisive but sensible stroke-play, before the contest tightened up.

The Australian admits she froze on her first match point, a netted backhand at 5-3 on the Dulgheru serve, and was determined to hit out on the next, an overly ambitious down-the-line forehand that flew well wide. She lost the game, but returned to serve out the match in 88 minutes.

“In a way it helped me because it kind of calmed me down like, ‘OK, you already had the match points, what’s the worse can happen? Maybe it’s 5-All and you have to play one more set. There is nothing else. You already went through the emotions, that excitement, oh, my God, it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen’.

“Then I played really well the last game I thought and ended up playing the points the way I wanted and hold my serve on love. It was very good to the end.”

It was also the first match on the remodelled, retractably-roofed Margaret Court Arena that was the first-day home for three of the 13 locals on what could well have been billed as Australia day, in quantitative terms, at least. Wildcards Storm Sanders and Jordan Thompson made early exits, but Marinko Matosevic was another afternoon winner, having heaved the grand slam gorilla from his shoulders at Roland Garros last year, and now has finally recorded a first win in five frustrating attempts at Melbourne Park.

Gajdosova can relate, even if her first career match against accomplished French Open finalist Halep looms as a daunting mission. “Nothing is impossible,” she declared, however. “I have already got the monkey off my back.”

It has never been about the tools for the native Slovakian, but the mind, and the negativity that can creep in during times of struggle. Not for Gajdosova, 27, the supremely focused approach of a Maria Sharapova, for example, although her ball-striking ability has always been elite.

And now it all seems to be coming together again, Gajdosova having upset top 13 duo Andrea Petkovic and Dominika Cibulkova to reach the quarter-finals in Sydney last week, as a prelude to the emphatic breaking  of her Melbourne Park duck after so long.

So Halep awaits, an impressive 6-3, 6-2 winner against Karin Knapp.

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Family and friends pay tribute to Shannen Riggien, teen killed in tragic fall

Tragic accident: Shannen Riggien. Photo: SuppliedA split-second decision has turned to heartbreak after the tragic death of a teenager.
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Shannen Riggien, 17, from Kurri Kurri in the NSW Hunter region, died in John Hunter Hospital on Monday morning after suffering severe head injuries when she fell from the back of a moving vehicle at East Maitland after a teenage movie night.

Family and friends are mourning the loss of the Maitland All Saints College year 12 student, known for her “huge smile and bubbly personality”, and remembered as the “sunshine of our lives”.

Her devastated father, James Riggien snr, told the Newcastle Herald that to know his daughter was to love her.

“You could not help but love her because her selflessness and unconditional love radiated from her big brown eyes,” he said. “She was such a soft, gentle soul.”

On Monday, the Newcastle Herald reported Shannen had been standing on the rear of a vehicle on Friday night after a movie night with friends when she fell.

Crash experts will investigate what occurred immediately before the accident, including if the driver had got behind the wheel before Shannen and another teenage girl decided to jump on the rear. It is understood the car travelled less than 50 metres down Victoria Street before the driver performed a U-turn, where Shannen lost her balance and fell.

It appears her head hit the kerb and she suffered severe head injuries.

She was kept on life support before she succumbed to her injuries about 7.30am on Monday.

Crash investigators have yet to interview the driver, but Mr Riggien said there was”no animosity” from his family.

“We as a family would like to reach out to everyone that was there and extend our love and support to them as well,” he said. Shannen was born in South Africa, lived in Ireland and moved with her family to Singleton in 2006, before eventually settling in Kurri Kurri.

“Just before moving to Australia, she watched a National Geographic program on the world’s top-10 deadliest animals,” Mr Riggien said.

“I will never forget her face when she looked at me and asked ‘Is this Australia the one you are taking us to? Are you serious? Everything there wants to kill you’.”

Known as a sporty and musically gifted teenager with a love of religion, she had hoped to spend a gap year in Sweden after finishing year 12 before studying to become a music teacher.

An active member of the Generate Church in Singleton and Crossroads Church in Maitland, she was known among friends as “mum” for always being the one to organise youth getaways and keep her friends “safe and on track”.

“This is what makes the circumstances of her accident and resultant death such an unfortunate event,” Mr Riggien said. “The accident happened with most of her friends present and must be devastating to this very close group of beautiful young people.

“It is always a sad thing when a life gets taken so young.

“For us, it’s even worse since she was such a soft, gentle soul.”

In a joint statement, friends of the teenager expressed their hurt at losing Shannen.

“Shannypoo was every bit of goodness in the world and the sunshine of our lives. She had the most contagious smile and we have infinite love for her and she will be in our hearts forever,” they said.

“She once said that we were her greatest discovery, but really she was ours.”

Gary Morton, the senior pastor of Crossroads Church in Maitland where Shannen attended youth group also paid his respects, saying Shannen was “a beautiful girl who really lit up the room when she entered”.

“She was greatly liked and a lovely girl, it’s a tragedy,” he said.

Shannen is survived by her five brothers – Dafydd, Duncan, Frank, Alexander and James jnr – her mother, Shirley Wilson, and Mr Riggien snr.

The Newcastle Herald

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Families of Gallipoli soldiers invited to Anzac Day ceremony in London

Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller
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Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller

Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller

London: Descendants of the soldiers who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 have been invited to a special commemorative Anzac Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.

New Zealand prime minister John Key said it could be a good alternative for people who had failed to get tickets to the main event at Anzac Cove.

And prime minister Tony Abbott encouraged Australians in the UK to “take this opportunity to commemorate and honour the sacrifice of  our Anzacs.”

Though the ceremony will be open to all, descendants of the Anzacs would be able to apply for free tickets to watch from a reserved area or join a march past the Cenotaph.

“There has been quite a voracious ballot process (at Anzac Cove),” Mr Key said. “We certainly would have liked to have had much more numbers being able to attend and many many descendants are very disappointed that they can’t, so this gives us an opportunity to make sure that they can take part in the commemorations.”

UK culture secretary Sajid Javid said he did not want to estimate how many would take up the invitation.

“I hope as many descendants as possible, of whatever nationality, are able to attend to remember their loved ones,” he said.

British Major Patrick Jackson, 48, was at the announcement of the ceremony, at the Imperial War Museum in London on Monday.

He said his family had often talked about his grandfather’s experience at Gallipoli – and it was a source of great pride.

Midshipman Arthur Mallet was only 16 when the HMS Vengeance parked off the Dardanelles and shelled Turkish positions as the first waves of the Gallipoli assault began on April 25, 1915.

“I don’t know what he would have made about our talking about him 100 years later,” Major Jackson said. “But we are definitely enormously proud of the part he played.”

After recovering from his injury, Mallet went on to a different ship and took part in the Great War’s biggest naval encounter, the battle of Jutland – in which 25 ships were sunk with great loss of life. He survived, and lived until the 1970s.

Major Jackson said he thought the Cenotaph gathering on Anzac Day was an “amazing” idea, that might revive, or at least remember, the camaraderie of the Great War.

Descendants of those who fought in the Gallipoli campaign, and other members of the public who wish to take part, must apply for (free) tickets at this web address.

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Optometrists attack ‘short-sighted’ Medicare cuts

Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland
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Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland

Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland

More patients will pay to see an optometrist as a result of a cut to Medicare rebates that took effect at the start of the year, optometrists say.

The 5 per cent cut to the optometry rebates announced in the May budget means that an optometrist who bulk-bills their patient will receive $3.55 less from Medicare for a standard visit.

However optometrists, who previously were not allowed to charge more than the Medicare scheduled fee, are now free to charge patients as much as they like.

Kate Gifford, the national president of Optometry Australia, said while allowing optometrists to set their own fees was welcome, the cuts to rebates, which are estimated to save about $90 million over four years, were “extremely short-sighted”.

“If patients stay away, it will lower eye health outcomes for the community,” Mrs Gifford said.

“This could have quite significant outcomes in the future if people delay eye care because they’re concerned about affordability.”

Almost 97 per cent of optometry services are delivered at no charge to the patient. But Mrs Gifford said many patients would face out-of-pocket costs as optometrists charged fees to recover the income they would lose from Medicare.

“I think you will see optometrists charging,” she said.

Mrs Gifford said Optometry Australia was seeking meetings with the government about the effect the change would have on disadvantaged groups.

“Everybody needs eye health care, but there are some people who genuinely can’t afford a co-payment,” she said.

She said some optometrists who served low-income groups would not be able to charge their patients fees, and would come under financial pressure.

The fees the Department of Veterans’ Affairs pay optometrists for services to veterans have not changed, and optometrists are not allowed to charge a co-payment for these services.

In a separate change that also came into force on January 1, people under 65 years of age without new symptoms will only be able to claim a Medicare rebate for a comprehensive eye examination every three years, rather than every two years.

Mrs Gifford said this change, which is estimated to save almost $10 million over five years, was “not positive and not evidence-based”.

But she welcomed a related change which would give people aged 65 and over Medicare-funded comprehensive examinations every year, rather than every two years.

A spokeswoman for the federal health department said optometrists would determine whether to continue to bulk-bill or to charge their patients out-of-pocket costs.

The spokeswoman said the Medicare Benefits Schedule provided for a patient under 65 years of age to have a second or subsequent consultation with an optometrist within three years if necessary.

Medicare funded optometric services would continue to be available for patients who had symptoms, the spokeswoman said.

She said the the revenue generated from the changes would be invested in the Medical Research Future Fund, which “has the potential to deliver treatments, or even cures, for some of the world’s most debilitating diseases.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that no exemptions had been made to the cuts to optometry fees. In fact, the fees the Department of Veterans’ Affairs pay optometrists for services to veterans have not changed, and optometrists are not allowed to charge a co-payment for these services.

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ICAC hears ‘ransom’ payments secured work contracts

EVIDENCE: A grab from ICAC-released footage of a filmed meeting outside a hotel in Sydney.A WORKER at a state-owned electricity company pocketed more than $300,000 in allegedly corrupt kickbacks from contractors, including $25,000 to modify his car and thousands more for luxury home renovations, the corruption watchdog has heard.
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The Independent Commission Against Corruption will make recommendations to stamp out graft in the electricity network industry after an anonymous tip-off triggered an investigation into former Ausgrid engineer Phillip Cresnar.

Mr Cresnar, who started working at the company as a graduate in 2006, allegedly solicited cash and gifts ranging from airfares and event tickets to a $60,000 custom kitchen and an imported marble bath and toilets costing $7800 for helping contractors win lucrative contracts.

Counsel assisting the commission, Sydney barrister Tim Gartelmann, said in his opening address on Monday that the contracts awarded to some of the companies were worth tens of millions of dollars.

The inquiry was shown footage of Mr Cresnar meeting contractors Fergal McGann and John Madden on January 20 last year outside the Greengate Hotel in Killara, where he was allegedly given an envelope containing $2500 in cash after Mr Madden was filmed making a withdrawal.

Mr McGann said in a secretly taped phone call organising the meeting that they wanted to “sort [Mr Cresnar] out”. But the contractors, whose company MDM Formworks received Ausgrid contracts worth $362,000, denied handing over money.

The commission heard that one company, Bastow Civil Constructions, secured contracts worth $20 million between 2007 and 2012 and paid for big-ticket items for Mr Cresnar in return. The owner of the company, Jason Bastow, told the inquiry “it was like I was held at ransom”. He said that around 2008 Mr Cresnar told him that “he wanted me to buy him certain items for his house”.

Mr Bastow said he “hesitated” but eventually paid up. He gave evidence the Ausgrid engineer came with him as he paid for a range of other items totalling $31,000. When asked why Mr Cresnar provided him with a phone, he replied: “Corrupt activities.” He told the inquiry he believed his company would get only “crap work” if he stopped making payments, and that he also handed over $5000 in cash.

The inquiry is expected to run for five days. Mr Cresnar’s employment was terminated last year.

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Boom in Asian tourism to help Australian business

Companies in several industries, including aviation, construction, casinos, shopping malls and wine, stand to benefit from a boom in Asian tourists that will help offset the economic drag from declining resources investment, says CLSA.
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The broker’s head of Australia research, Scott Ryall, has issued a lengthy report identifying $40 billion of major tourism projects in progress or planning that will help create critical mass for new developments as Australia looks to upgrade its tourism stock to meet demand from growing markets such as China.

“We believe government and industry are co-ordinating to attract foreign investors,” he said, adding he was impressed by the bipartisan nature of the focus.

The Tourism 2020 plan targeting $115 billion to $140 billion of overnight spending by the end of the decade was released under the Gillard government in 2011, but it has also been embraced by the Abbott government.

Mr Ryall said companies such as steel producer Arrium, building materials group Boral, construction company Lend Lease and residential developer Mirvac would be among those to benefit from additional development in the tourism industry. Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb has been actively seeking more foreign investment in tourism-related developments.

Projects under way include a new convention centre and the Barangaroo precinct in Sydney, the Queen’s Wharf precinct in Brisbane, the Aquis resort and casino in Cairns, a new resort and cruise terminal on the Gold Coast and the Elizabeth Quay precinct in Perth.

The investment comes as the number of tourists from Asia – and in particular China – continues to rise. Mr Ryall said Sydney Airport would be among the key beneficiaries from a rise in visitors, but companies including shopping centre operators Scentre Group and Novion Property, casino owners Crown Resorts, Echo Entertainment Group and SkyCity Entertainment Group, and wine producer Treasury Wine Estates would also benefit from tourist spending.

The weaker Australian dollar could assist in further boosting demand for visits to Australia and onshore spending.

“Cost is a big issue for all tourists, particularly from an emerging market,” Mr Ryall said.

The high Australian dollar had also led to a fall in the number of Chinese students enrolling in local universities. Education can be a major driver of tourism because friends and relatives of students have more of an incentive to visit.

But Mr Ryall said a huge step-up in travel demand was expected in the medium term given Australia is high on the wish-list of destinations for Chinese tourists. China is now the second-largest inbound market behind New Zealand and the most lucrative in terms of the number of dollars spent.

However, Australia has been losing market share among Chinese tourists to rival destinations in North America and Europe. Among out-of-Asia travel by Chinese tourists, Australia’s share has fallen to 3.4 per cent, from 3.8 per cent in 2001.

Industry lobby groups such as Tourism & Transport Forum have called on the government to make it easier for Chinese tourists to gain visas,  to help combat falling market share.

The government has launched an electronic processing trial, but Chinese tourists still need to provide extensive documentation such as evidence of access to funds, a letter from an employer confirming leave, and other information showing an incentive to return to China.

Mr Ryall said there was evidence from Korea that reducing visa restrictions could have a significant effect on boosting Chinese tourism. Korea once received a similar number of Chinese tourists to Japan. But since reducing visa restrictions significantly in August 2010, Korea receives treble the number of Chinese tourists as Japan.

“They are making changes,” Mr Ryall said of the Australian move toward electronic processing and three-year multiple entry business visas. “But I think this will always be an area where we are slightly harder than other countries.”

Chinese tourism growth has been driven in part by increased aviation capacity. That has come from Chinese carriers, as Qantas Airways services China only through a daily flight between Sydney and Shanghai.

There is a cap on aviation capacity as a result of a bilateral agreement between Australia and China, but the countries are in negotiations that could result in more flights being allowed.

The cap has already been reached in peak periods, such as Chinese New Year, and limits additional second-tier Chinese carriers from entering the market.

Mr Ryall said Qantas, which is now pursuing a joint venture with China Eastern, could benefit from increased volumes from China on its domestic network. But he said it was less likely that Qantas would add more flights to China on its own aircraft.

“I don’t think they see the Chinese market as high yielding enough to focus a lot of their own planes into that market,” he said.

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Health star rating system for packaged food should be compulsory: poll

Big support: Call for a tax on sugary drinks and junk food. Photo: Thinkstock
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Big support: Call for a tax on sugary drinks and junk food. Photo: Thinkstock

Big support: Call for a tax on sugary drinks and junk food. Photo: Thinkstock

Making a health star rating compulsory for all packaged foods has attracted the overwhelming support of respondents in a national poll.

Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash launched a voluntary health star rating system last month which gives products a score of up to five stars based on their energy, fat, sugar and salt content.

More than three-quarters of respondents said the system should be made compulsory, in a poll of more than 1000 people commissioned by the Heart Foundation, Consumers Health Forum, Public Health Association and Obesity Policy Coalition.

Almost two-thirds of those polled agreed that “the food industry seems to have more say than the government over the regulation of food”.

The results follow controversy over the introduction of health star ratings, with Senator Nash’s former chief of staff Alastair Furnival at the centre of conflict-of-interest claims after revelations that he co-owned a lobbying firm representing junk food clients.

In other results, 85 per cent of those polled said unhealthy eating habits were a major problem for Australian children and half supported regulations on television advertising of junk food to children.

Half of people polled supported a tax on junk food and sugary drinks. This follows recent calls by some government ministers to extend the GST to fresh food, which has been widely opposed by health groups.

Health groups behind the poll said the results showed widespread support for action to tackle obesity amid concern over unhealthy diets.

Heart Foundation chief executive Mary Barry said Australia was facing a crisis, with about 60 per cent of Australian adults and a quarter of children now classified as overweight.

Of this group, about 25 per cent of adults and six per cent of children are obese.

Ms Barry said the government needed to immediately launch a national obesity prevention strategy which should include mandatory food labelling, restrictions on marketing of junk food to children and a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

“It’s going to have to be a long-term commitment, like we’ve had to reduce the number of people smoking,” she said.

Public Health Association of Australia president Heather Yeatman said significant increases in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes would occur without urgent action to address dietary-related illness.

A spokeswoman for the federal health department said the government was encouraged to see food companies moving to implement health star ratings, making healthier choices easier for consumers. She said the voluntary system was due to be reviewed within two years.

The spokeswoman said the government funded a variety of other measures to address obesity, including guidelines and activities to encourage healthy eating and physical activity.

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